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July 6, 2014

Territory impressive as well

DUNCAN — For the next seven days, the world of golf will focus on Edmond, Oklahoma in general and Oak Tree National in particular as the revitalized club and course hosts the prestigious 2014 U.S. Senior Open.

  It makes perfectly good sense.

  Some of the biggest names in golf – Langer, Couples, Irwin, Kite, Sluman, Mize, Montgomerie, Price, O’Meara, Calcavecchia, Pavin – will join Oklahoma legends Morgan, Tway, Verplank and Wood in a field of 156 pros and amateurs over age 50 chasing one of the most coveted of all Champions Tour crowns.

  Most likely, the winner will be the course itself.

  Created in 1975 to be the “finest inland golf course ever built” by famed designer Pete Dye, it has bounced back from a bout with bankruptcy and related neglect to again become much like its original design, one that has challenged the best of golfers and all who have tested their ability against par.

  It was the site of a memorable PGA Championship in 1988. It was home to the 1984 U.S. Amateur. It hosted the PGA Club Professional Championship in 2000, the PGA Cup matches in 1980 and the PGA Round of Champions in 1978-79. And it was home to the U.S. Senior PGA Championship in 2006.

  With redesigned greens, longer distances and additional trees all approved by the demanding Dye, the updated par 71, 7,219-yard course has also returned to impressive pedigree enhancing “best of” lists by the likes of Golf Digest, Golfweek and Golf Inc.,  publications that take seriously their comparisons, rankings and reputation.

  Its renewed status brings credit to a state long in love with the game.

  Without fail, Southern Hills Country Club of Tulsa, Oak Tree and Karsten Creek of Stillwater are Oklahoma’s best, comfortably perched atop modern courses, classic courses, top courses, residential courses and best places to play.

  Significant today about those lists is No. 4.

  The Territory Golf and Country Club, a rugged 640-acre Stephens County jewel, envisioned by Rick and Barbara Braught, designed by Randy Heckenkemper and managed by Tim Johnson, continues to make a name for itself, fitting nicely among the state’s elite golf challenges.

  Opened in 2005, it has already gained recognition as a championship layout, its respect deepening annually as word of its quality spreads and the course continues to mature.

  The Territory, which plays 7,110 yards to a championship 72 par,  has hosted the Oklahoma Amateur, two NCAA Division II Super Regionals, the Oklahoma State Senior Amateur, the Adams Pro Golf Tour Halliburton Open, the South Central PGA Section Championship and the Oklahoma State Amateur

   And it has positioned itself nicely on those Golf Digest, Golfweek and Golf Inc. lists as well, inching up to the state’s No. 4 course ranking, gaining applause among best new courses and clubhouse of the year and rising to No. 26 among the country’s best residential courses.

  It is a remarkable record, casting unique and sudden praise on The Territory, its 235 members, Duncan, Stephens County and golf in southwest Oklahoma.

  “I think the course has exceeded all expectations,” general manager Tim Johnson said, proudly. “It is a great test and a great layout. Randy did a marvelous job in taking in all aspects of the game.

  “It has ample width in its fairways for the wind and conditions of our area. It has great mounds, bunkers and greens and it has become a strong positioning shot course.  The second shot is a premium on every hole and we’re proud of that.”

  Being mentioned alongside Southern Hills, Oak Tree and Karsten Creek separates The Territory from other courses, Johnson explained. Calls from state and national amateur or professional groups seeking a course for their respective major events have become commonplace, adding depth to its growing reputation.

  “It’s flattering,” he said.

  So while Oak Tree National may deservedly command the spotlight this week, a similar touch pf pride exists here.  The Territory’s best days may still be ahead.            

                                                                                                                                                         edarling@duncanbanner.com

                                                                                                                                                                  (580) 255-5354, Ext. 130

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